I’m not enjoying movies anymore: Naseeruddin Shah
Veteran actor Naseeruddin Shah speaks to Rachana Dubey on all that is important to him.Updated: Mar 09, 2009, 15:08 IST
Naseeruddin Shah speaks to Rachana Dubey on all that is important to him...
This seems like a busy year for you with a string of movies, Barah Aana, Firaaq, Ishqiya and Rajneeti coming up.
Yeah, but now I don’t want to take on anymore projects because I’m not enjoying the movies anymore. I’ve done enough. I would rather channelise my energies towards theatre now. That’s a more satisfying medium than the movies.
Also, theatre hasn’t been affected by the global meltdown, right?
Theatre isn’t a medium which will get affected by recession. Of course, those who did plays like Lord Ram and Kargil War, will be affected because theatre is not a money-generating medium. We can put up plays because we have the Prithvi Theatre to perform at.
People who love the medium get invited or buy tickets. If the play becomes popular, we get invited to perform at other venues as well. The revenue earned is pumped into the next play. I no longer have to earn money for my theatre group from my movies. But the money in theatre is hardly comparable to the movies.
What made you choose a movie like Barah Aana being made by a newbie director Raja Menon?
There’s a joke in Hollywood. Once, a filmmaker sent his script to a master actor. He returned the script with ‘rejected’ scrawled on it. The guy went running to the actor and protested, “You’ve not even read the whole script. I had attached page 25 with page 50.
The order hasn’t changed.” The actor said, “I didn’t need to. I don’t have to eat the whole egg to say that it’s bad. I don’t even have to swallow the first bite. If I like it, I will have the whole of it.” Similarly, I can smell a project from its opening pages. I don’t read all the scripts which come to me. I heard the concept of Raja’s film and agreed to do it instantly.
Om Puri recently received a Lifetime Achievement Award.. but you have yet to win such an award.
I’m very happy for Om. But it doesn’t matter really that I didn’t win.
A Wednesday didn’t bag a single award despite nominations in several categories.
(Sarcastically) I know, that’s terrible. I had told producer Anjum (Rizvi) that we should have started our campaign much earlier. We were late in booking the awards.
Anjum Rizvi is apparently very upset.
Yeah, I’m sure he was naïve enough to believe that awards had some meaning. Neeraj (Pandey) and he went all decked up for it.
At some award show, the Critics Award was announced for Mumbai Meri Jaan. Later a jury member came up and said that the previously announced award actually had two winners.. and gave a trophy to Neeraj also. There was no explanation about how that slip up happened.
Anyone who takes these random award shows seriously needs a psychiatrist. For Anjum to believe that he would win an award was dumb. When I spoke to him after the show, he was nearly in tears.
You were nominated in the best actor category alongside Shah Rukh Khan and Hrithik Roshan.
(Hiding his face) Oh, you also know about this now? I can’t tell you how upset I am for not having won the award. Don’t you know by now that I only work with the awards in mind? I’m so angry. (Laughs) I’m not surprised by their choices though. Maybe next year, they will give me something.
Kamal Haasan is remaking A Wednesday in Tamil and will be playing your part.
Okay, but why just mine? (Laughs) He should be playing all the parts.
Any tips for Mr Haasan?
No, no, he’s got enough of those tips.
According to Om Puri A Wednesday was provocative.
Okay, so what was Ghajini? Next they will say Barah Aana is provocative because it shows three victims of social imbalance
fighting it out in their own way. I’m sure they will think we are propagating negative views in the guise of a social yarn.
If our society could be so easily inspired by cinema, it would have been an utopian society. It’s not because we don’t get inspired by the family values and ethos being talked about in the movies.
The number of old age homes and deprived parents are rising every day. The crime rate in India is the highest in Asia. All those who say that A Wednesday was provocative are faux intellectuals.
Reportedly, UTV has sold the rights to Kamal Haasan.
How could they do that? That’s so unfair! Neeraj has no rights over his own creative work now.. and he won’t be getting his dues from the film? (Looks aghast) This means everyone except Neeraj and Anjum will make good money out of the movie. Anjum had been so keen on the project. He holds it very close to his heart.. so much so that he sat on the project for a long time before involving another producer.
Reports are that the U K will not permit movies on terrorism to be shot there in future.
I didn’t know about this development. But it was bound to happen. Cultural fascism is raising its head everywhere. They are
censoring scripts now.
Long ago, I had stumbled upon a movie which was never released in India. It was horrible, made by some goras.. with a German lookalike of Mahatma Gandhi. It was called Nine Hours to Rama.
It dealt with Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination from Nathuram Godse’s point of view. That was reason enough to ban the film
Will you direct again?
Never! It’s too much hard work and a gamble of sorts. I don’t have that much energy now. Yun Hota To Kya Hota did fall short in a lot of places but a lot of people liked it too. Still, at the end of it, it didn’t do well commercially.
Do you think Slumdog Millionaire was worth the eight Oscars it won?
I’m surprised by the way we are lapping it up. Everyone is going gaga saying that it’s an Indian film when it’s hardly Indian. The movie has been shot in India.. that’s it! We can’t get over the fact that India has been applauded in the west.
There’s nothing new that they presented about Dharavi.
Somewhere it was said that it’s the first of its kind to be shot in the Dharavi slums. I would advise people who say that to go and watch Chakra and Dharavi. I have shot innumerable times in the locality.
I think the booking for awards was fabulously done for Slumdog.. their marketing outdid a much more deserving Frost/Nixon.
Slumdog.. was a Cindrella story. The ethos were real.. the rest wasn’t. If they ever attempted a sequel to it and showed what
happened to Jamal after he won, then that would be worth a watch.
Do you think the slum kids can sustain their instant fame?
Their lives have changed undoubtedly. After travelling first class to the U S, sitting in suits and gowns in the Kodak Theatre, they will no longer sleep peacefully in their slum homes.
One of the kids, I read, was complaining that he can’t sleep because there are mosquitoes in the house. The little boy was slapped by his father for not giving press interviews. It bothers me how these kids will survive.
Once, I was shooting for a Hindi movie in Dubai. We needed four guys to play my henchmen. The production team got a short Thapa boy. He used to work in a five star hotel in Juhu.
They flew him down to Dubai. He stayed at a five star hotel for a month.. was possibly supplied with women too. After that, he came back and got back to work.
The last time I saw him, it was somewhere near Juhu, staring at torn film posters. He was in rags. That’s what sudden ‘fame’ can do to an individual.
Have you received your share of fame and money in this industry?
Of course. But I am not leaving any of that for my children. I will spend every rupee I’ve earned on myself. Let my kids fend for themselves.
What if Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron was to be remade today?
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron just happened. It wasn’t made. I don’t think a remake should be attempted.
Will you be working with Rajeev Rai now that he’s announced his next?
I don’t think so. He hasn’t spoken to me about his project yet.
What’s your son Imaad up to?
He’s preparing for his final year B A exams. I won’t decide what he has to do.. he will. He plays the guitar at public spots. He’ll
pursue whatever he wants to. If I was in his shoes, I’d have done plays, if possible.